Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh, btw, I'm Holy

It just occured to me that anyone might happen to click on my armory profile and find quite the odd image; a supposed voice of Retribution running around as Holy! WHAT GIVES?!

Well, sometimes one must make sacrifices in light of reality, and the reality in WoW as of WotLK is, "LF1M, need healer."

Currently, our guild is suffering from a healer shortage, one that I've little doubt has become fairly prevalent across the realms. Under these circumstances, it has become necessary that I hang up my two hander, for at least the time being. How permanent a change that becomes remains to be seen, but I certainly expect Naxx progression to be made purely as holy.

That said, I never take my eye off Retribution changes and concerns, and even given the simple factor of this blog's name have no intention of discussing any non-Ret issues, at least not outside of the context of Ret or the occasional general "how to raid" kind of post. As soon as dual specs occur, I'll certainly have my other spec be Ret immediately, and will always keep track and commentary focused on Retribution.

The time is good to be Ret, but with a brand new tank/dps class in the game and so many healers itching to try a non-healing class, healers are needed worse than ever, and I'm doing my part for now to alleviate that.

So what's our role now?

I haven't really hit upon the major changes compared to 3.0 and since, but I think (by and large) they're fairly self-evident. The rule of the day is, we can kill things very well.

We have always, in my experience, been a spec that was a diamond in the rough. If you knew what you were doing, and geared yourself properly for it, retribution was always capable of reasonable damage. In the original game I topped UBRS runs, hit top 5 in ZG runs, and regularly brought plenty of damage to any 5-man. In BC I was consistently up near the top of the guild charts when I was around, superseded a bit near the end as I was rarely if ever signed up and playing, and so my gear in terms of the guild progression had seriously fallen behind. That said, however, when I was near the top of our progression gearing, I was near the top of our DPS, each and every time.

The trick was that you needed some fairly specific circumstances to bring about the damage. Warrior was a must, feral druid nearly so. An enhancement shaman with WF totem would then, on top of that, spell the difference between top 10 in a 25 man and top 3.

We were very, very dependent on those around us for our damage; without that assistance, even excellent ret players would only hit a little above an average player on the charts. The major difference in WotLK is not what we're capable of, but that we no longer need others around to achieve that excellence. If you're in a 5-man with a shadow priest, elem. shaman and warlock, you can still pump out considerable damage, rivaling the other 3 with a little knowledge and skill.

So now that we have the damage, and no longer have to resort to precise group compositions and skills to make it happen, what do we do in groups? Aside from the obvious question of 'kill stuff', you have to consider this: we are now capable of doing enough damage to get invites based on this fact alone, but we still have other hybridy skills that can make us invaluable as we always were, when played right.

Hand of Sacrifice, Hand of Salvation, Hand of Freedom, Hand of Protection, Righteous Defense. You have them, so use them!

An HoS on the tank or a squishy at the right time may challenge your own survival, but it may also save their life and as a consequence save the party/raid. Hand of Protection has its still valuable implications of dropping melee aggro for the recipient (and making them immune to it regardless), and Hand of Salvation may drive down the aggro of your threat capped fellow DPSer enough that he/she can be freed up to do more damage again.

Remember that though you now can very much specialize your class for a specific role, they haven't taken our utility away. An AoW-insta Flash of Light can save the tank's life when the healer is loading a big heal on him. A hand of freedom may free up the rogue to get back on the boss and start killing him.

There's plenty of situations in which our utility is still evident. Be sure that you use them!

And as an aside, all Ret Paladins should have Kings from here on, PvE or PvP. It's not cheap, but it's still easily afforded on top of your vital skills. My next post will lay down 2 of the best options for talent specs these days.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Pally Wall!

A lot of Paladins have overlooked one of the most interesting and unheralded changes to class mechanics, and I felt this worthy of a post; it's an old skill that used to be dumped to the spellbook as soon as its replacement came along, but now is a powerful skill in it's own right...

Divine Protection and Divine Shield are no longer on the same cooldown, so that they can be cast independently of each other. No, that's not the important change, but this was done because Divine Protection has a slightly different affect now; instead of giving you shorter term immunity and an inability to attack while active, it instead reduces all damage taken by 50% and the 100% increase to your swing timer that Divine Shield has (which will soon be, for both skills, -50% damage done).

What, still not a big deal? Well, here's the reason it actually is a big deal: 1) this gives you an extra bubble in between DS cooldowns (though a less powerful one, certainly), and 2) it gives you a shield wall.

Obviously, the reason you can't bubble while tanking is that when a mob detects you as immune, it backs off and kills someone else instead. That's bad. But if you only reduce damage taken, that mob is still hitting you. This is a massive boost to Paladins of all stripes, as we all end up with mobs hitting us at some point, and many of those times we'd rather them hit us than a squishy. In those situations, or in situations with a bubble on CD, we can now make use of Divine Protection again; it's no longer simply the precursor to Divine Shield. Those 12 seconds of DP give you the mitigation of a tank and can easily mean the difference between a difficult victory and a wipe.

Of course, keep in mind the forbearance rules, as you don't want to lock yourself out for 2 minutes from casting the main bubble if its up in 10 seconds and you can survive anyways. But with this around, you may very well be able to keep Hand of Protection around solely for use on party members.

Soloing With Seal of Blood

I was involved in a bit of a discussion on the whinefest idiocy of the standard WoW forums (I don't recommend being as foolish as me and actually reading those blasted things) about Blood/Martyr vs. Command for leveling.

There was a quite strong belief on the part of many that Blood while soloing will leave you drinking every other fight, and/or dead. While there have been times I've questioned that maybe its efficiency is not as strong as I'd like, to suggest that Blood rolls up devastating consequences for the Paladin unwise enough to turn it into his everyday seal is ridiculous.

For those who don't use it regularly outside of instances (and you hardly notice its damage while inside one), most of Blood's self-inflicting damage is actually quite minor. I'm taking about 50 or so damage at the worst on most swings, which adds up to far less damage than mobs are doing to me. Judgment of Light in and of itself has been more than sufficient to cover for any damage received in that method, and as such my health is never at risk with regular swings.

The real risk of Blood is the Judgment damage, which amounts to roughly 30% of the damage caused. As I've seen a 7k crit in an instance with Blood, and can regularly crit for 4.5-5k with the skill, that can add up to quite a bit, to say the least; you should expect to lose 1,000-1,700 health whenever you judge the seal.

But! Here's where the fun comes in. An Art of War-inspired insta-Flash of Light will immediately heal all or nearly all of the damage you inflicted upon yourself, and if you just crit on your Judgment, Art of War is already up anyways.

As long as you're killing mobs that don't inflict overly large damage themselves, wherein you'll need that FoL for the damage being inflicted on you and thus extra healing will be needed (pretty rare), you should find Blood to be an excellent nearly-all-purpose seal.

But still, don't PvP with it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A belated return

Yes, I still exist. No, I haven't posted in a very, very long time (though I imagine my last post had my frustrations showing through pretty clearly). My apologies for not explaining my disappearance, but between a great deal of work concerns and a complete loss of interest in WoW, I'd lost virtually any interest in going near my blog.

I originally started this blog because while there were still a few among us holding strong to the Retribution Paladin style, so many didn't understand how to gear their class, or how to rotate their skills, etc. So often I would see a Ret-spec Pally wielding a 1-hander and shield, casting Seal of Light/Justice/Crusader for grinding, skipping vital talents in the tree or not using their utility to help the group. Thus, I felt it necessary to begin a blog to explain Retribution, so that those who want to try it out for grinding/5-mans/raiding/what-have-you would have the understanding and tools necessary to optimize their own playtime.

So why did I leave? A lot of it had to do with PvP-grinding exhaustion; BG grinding is just about the most painful experience WoW has to offer. Another part was that the gameplay in general was wearing thin; not much to do once you get your epic set out of PvP, and all of the PvE gear available with your progression disinterests you. A major part of it, however, was that the novelty was finally wearing off. More and more Paladins started to play as Ret, and play it well. There's fun to be had in being the underdog. Surprising the hell out of people by rolling #1 on the charts in a UBRS run, or top 5 in Zul'Gurub is a blast, and it was always nice to opening people's eyes up to the fact that nothing is ever as clearcut as the whole 'omg spec X sux' belief that often prevails among the masses.

I hope that my blog was, at the time, at least a small part of the successful transition into a moderately respected DPS-spec. Once one of my server's top end guilds started taking a Ret Pally to raids, I knew we were on our way in the long run. With all my goals in the game (pimp out the gear, experience what content I could, make Ret respectable) fulfilled, what could I do?

Well, my friends successfully pursued a goal of getting me back into the game. With that, a new expansion to explore and an entire revamping of ret to experiment with, it was finally time to come back. It's not very much fun being the 'standard' Paladin spec now; I was Ret before it was cool, dammit! Regardless, it's a lot of fun playing the spec.

So I think I'm back now. As for what there will be to talk about, who knows? I might go over some of the subtler changes that may have been overlooked, I'll discuss my experience in WotLK, and will be happy to answer any questions sent my way via e-mail/comments (p.s. - my apologies for any unanswered emails after my departure; I've cleaned out my inbox and am starting fresh, and will totally answer them now!). I'll start looking into posts; with the availability of good research options available, I'll try to cover more gameplay, mechanics kind of discussions than straight up number crunching; there's always EJ for that.

So I suppose we'll see how this goes! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to have an interesting site to visit once again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Loot rewards

BoK has been discussing the PvP epics vs. regular epics discussion, and I thought I'd weigh in on it too...

Timesink. This game and virtually all other MMRPGs are unfortunately purely designed in this way, to waste as much time as possible to get as minimal a reward as possible. Part of the problem is the complete avoidance of the concept of character death - if you cannot lose your character in any way, shape or form, the rewards have to be slow and time-consuming, so that you cannot perfect yourself.

But they're really too slow.

People complain about being able to get PvP epics, but it isn't as though they're handed to you. I have 3 pieces from months of play from the arena, and the other 3 I earned from what can be asbolutely mind-numbing BG PUGs. I don't think there was any lack of effort on my part.

The difference is the staggering amount of time you comparatively have to spend in PvE efforts. Rep rewards, raiding time, all of these require ridiculous amounts of time put in. The only way to get everything out of the game is to sacrifice all of your other games and many other interests. At 10-15 hours a week I can never catch up to any of my goals, especially not with raiding in the schedule, and getting an epic flying mount is almost certainly never going to happen at this point.

Long story short, rewards take far too much time as it is. PvP rewards may be a bit too easy, but I believe the effort required to get PvE rewards is so severe that it makes PvP look a lot easier than it really is.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Set Bonuses and Gem Bonuses

Quick and dirty second post as I'm staring at a pile of invoices I need done before I leave tonight (groan), Firelight mentioned something in the CS comments that has bugged me for awhile - since Diablo 2, actually.... Blizzard is scared as hell of item bonuses.

They love the idea, which as I recall was originally to make people want to wear the entire set of a certain type of armor, so that characters looked more awesome. This was the plan going all the way back to D2. So they created the idea of set bonuses, to reward someone who took the time and effort to collect an entire set. One problem: the bonuses suck.

In mortal fear of breaking the almighty item value* laws, they minimize at all costs the actual utility of having an entire set. Bonuses are by and large weak and uninspiring. They're clearly afraid of making these items too valuable, and so most of the time they make it tepid and uninteresting. This of course makes people largely ignore the set bonuses (with a few exceptions) and they end up being willing to break a set the first chance they get. With socket bonuses, the situation has remained unchanged.

Take, for example, Tier 4 Holy. One of the set bonuses? Increased healing from JoL. Aside from the kinda maybe synergy that a Ret Paladin can have with it, by keeping it up FOR the Holy Pally, there's no way they make any real use of it, and it is pretty damn weak to begin with.

Or the fact that I don't have a single item bonus from any of my armor on my Prot Pally. Why bother? 12 sta gems will easily beat the +4 block value I'll get from utilising the far weaker red and yellow gems. +4 block value being one of the better possibilities on some of these sockets.

I'd like to see people utilizing real armor sets, and I'd like to see more sets in general. But to really push people to start wearing them, you have to give people a reason.

Anyways, the limited number of armor pieces in this game is kinda disappointing. I'd really like to have a lot of options, but it eventually gets to the point where I know what upgrade I need next and where I can get it, period.

* For the less experienced among us, each item is given a certain 'item level', which gives it a total amount of stat points it can have. In fact, I should probably make another whole post on this. Add it to the officially unofficial Retnoob planned updates.